PRESS RELEASE: WUC DEMANDS ACTION OVER UYGHUR DEATHS IN URUMCHI FIRE
The World Uyghur Congress (WUC) is outraged by the lack of action from local authorities following the fire that broke out in a building in Urumchi on Thursday evening in the Tengritagh neighbourhood.
According to media reports, the fire started on the 15th floor of an apartment building that Uyghur families prominently inhabited. The fire quickly spread to upper levels, reaching the 19th floor and killing and injuring dozens of people, including children. Among those who died were a family of three: the mother, Qemernisahan Abdurahman and her children, Nehdiye and Imran. The father, Eli Memetniyaz and their older son, Eliyas Eli are both serving twelve and ten years prison sentences, respectively.
According to local residents, firefighters arrived three hours after the fire began to extinguish the flames, despite their close proximity to the building.
‘’The Uyghur community is extremely distressed after hearing the horrific news of numerous families losing their lives in the fire,’’ said WUC President, Dolkun Isa. ‘’The fact is that the Chinese government has absolutely no mercy and the local authorities are completely ignoring the needs and demands of the Uyghur people, therefore they have not promptly acted to extinguish the blaze. This callous disregard for Uyghur lives is characteristic of the Chinese regime which has utilized Covid lockdowns as a tool to continue their genocide of Uyghurs.’’
Videos filmed by residents have circulated on Chinese social media. Netizens are increasingly expressing their anger online at the failure of the authorities to respond to the fire on time and effectively. The ongoing harsh COVID-19 restrictions imposed in East Turkistan, including complete lockdowns, might have also hindered the rescue process beyond the initial slow response, as residents were not allowed to leave their houses. The barricades and bolted doors have been installed by local authorities, supposedly in an attempt to prevent people suspected of being exposed to the virus from leaving their homes.
Since yesterday, protests have started in the capital city of Urumchi, where Chinese residents can be heard chanting ‘’we are human beings’’, ‘’stop the lockdown’’ and other slogans.
Since August, Uyghurs in East Turkistan have endured these lockdowns without access to food or medical care. Social media accounts have been flooded with videos of people dying due to complete neglect from the authorities, and total disregard for Uyghur’s suffering.
All of these atrocities come as Xi Jinping has secured his third term in power, indicating that the genocidal policies in East Turkistan will likely continue.
The World Uyghur Congress calls for the immediate attention of the international community to act and hold the Chinese government accountable for its complete abdication of responsibility and disregard for Uyghur lives. The WUC also calls on the Chinese government to repeal the extreme COVID-related lockdown measures.
Finally, the WUC pays homage to the victims who have lost their lives in the fire and extends its sincere condolences to the family members of those who perished who are living abroad.